Ask an Attorney: Navigating holiday drivers and shoppers
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The holiday season is one of the busiest times to be on the road, and can be one of the most dangerous. With family road trips, crazed holiday shoppers and an endless array of party invitations to fulfill, everyone is on the move this month — and often in a hurry.
The traffic will be heavy and distractions will be high, so it’s especially important that all drivers in the valley stay on high alert while getting to their destinations safely. Here’s how to avoid falling victim to the many pitfalls of holiday roadway travel this month.
Be careful in parking lots
Accident statistics don’t always cover parking lots, which are usually considered private property. With the number of people rushing in and out of stores as they try to grab bargains, State Farm Insurance Agency reports that 20 percent of all accidents this season will be in packed parking lots.
When you’re in a parking lot, slow down. Have patience and remember to watch out for cars backing out, sudden stops and children running between cars.
What starts as a happy trip to buy presents for your loved ones can turn the holidays into an instant nightmare if you hit a pedestrian. Regardless of fault, the trauma suffered by all parties when there’s an injury can last forever. It might take a few extra minutes if we slow down and pay attention, but doing so can mean the difference between a happy holiday season and a ruined life.
If you’re in a parking lot fender bender, the police may not cite an at-fault driver because traffic laws may not apply on private property. They may not even come to the scene.
Be sure to document the accident as best you can with your cellphone camera, then contact your insurance company and the DMV when you get home. In Nevada, DMV form SR-1 is used to report accidents when the police don’t come. And don’t forget, most parking lots have surveillance cameras, so don’t run (that’s a felony) and if you’re injured, call an attorney.
Don’t drink and drive
Drunken driving accidents and DUI arrests increase in December, so spare yourself and everyone else on the road the risk by not driving if you’ve been drinking.
If you’re going to a holiday party where you know you’ll be drinking, make a plan in advance for getting home. Find a designated driver and be sure your phone is fully charged just in case the plan changes.
No one is going to tell you not to have a good time, but if you realize that you might have overindulged and don’t have a plan for getting home, get a ride with a sober friend or call for a cab or ride-hailing service. DUIs are much more expensive than any metered trip across the valley. Most cabs and ride-hailing services cover you with a $1 million insurance policy in the event your driver is involved in a collision.
If you’re in an accident while driving and you suspect the other driver has been drinking, call 911 immediately, even if you’re at fault. Once the police are on their way, take photos of the scene, exchange information with the driver and then wait in your car until the police arrive.
Make sure your vehicle is up-to-date on service and repairs
When there are so many variables that are out of your control, it’s important that your vehicle’s working condition isn’t one of them. If you’ve been putting off those new tires or getting your brakes replaced, now is the time to get it done. This is especially true if you’re planning any road trips or will be driving somewhere snowy.
Don’t drive distracted
Whether it’s screaming kids in the back seat, a buzzing cellphone or the intoxicated Santa wobbling down the sidewalk, don’t allow your focus to waver from the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2012, 18 percent of injury crashes and 10 percent of fatal crashes were distraction-related.
Watch out for motorcycles, scooters and cyclists
They’re smaller, harder to see in the dark and more difficult to gauge your distance from, so share the road safely. Be especially careful when making left turns, and give them plenty of space on the road.
Properly secure children and pets
If your child is young, be sure that a car seat is installed safely, and that any child under 13 is in the back seat and wearing a seat belt. Anytime you’re traveling with a pet, be sure it’s comfortably seated in a crate.
By Attorney Judah Zakalik, Esq., Partner, Peters and Associates, LLP
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